Rankings and Precision

A very interesting take on B-school rankings, from organization scholar Rhakesh Khurana (via Pub Sociology):

Rankings provide the illusion of scientific rigor vis-à-vis a process that actually calls for careful judgment and nuanced interpretation. It is one thing to give Wharton, Tuck, or Columbia a rating as a top business school; this leaves some room for interpretation. However, to say that Wharton is number one, Columbia number 3 and Tuck number 2 indicates a level of precision that just cannot be achieved, except on the cover of a newsmagazine and then in the minds of students.

I’ve previously suggested that law school rankings have some real benefits in reducing search costs; and I continue to think that rankings are helpful for many people. However, the problem of quantification and incomensurability, as ably discussed in Khurana’s post, is one of the real weaknesses of an ordinal ranking system like that used by U.S. News.

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2 Responses

  1. Nate Oman says:

    Kaimi: Is this meant as an argument against ordinal rankings, or simply against taking them too seriously?

  2. Scott Moss says:

    You point out a serious problem, Kaimi, but I have to say that I see no solution (other than getting rid of rankings, which I will do as soon as I am elected Supreme Overlord). The obvious solution is “groupings” or “tiers” without numbered rankings — but as a prof at the law school a US News official has said is 101, I have to say that it sucks being at the school just below the cutoff. And, of course, the cutoff gives an artificial sense of precision that overrates schools just above the cutoff while underrating those just below.